Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back to School

My mother's mind can't hold onto the fact that I'm traveling.
An hour or two after I talked with her, she called my home and left a message:
"Anne, where are you? I'm all ready, waiting for you to pick me up and go to the University of Colorado."
My husband reported this to me later in the evening.
"Oh, that's because I was talking with her and her mind was on full speed ahead. She was talking about going back to live at the P.E.O. chapter house in Colorado Springs."
Then I remembered that she had also said she was going back to the University of Colorado to earn a Ph.D.
I didn't even try to explain it to John.
I realized I shouldn't have called her in the evening, when she should have been quieting down for bedtime. My call had further added to the stimulation in her mind, and her caregiver probably had had trouble putting her to bed.
Actually, she can't dial any phone number, so she must have talked her caregiver into calling my home.
What a scene: her sitting up, expecting me to arrive any moment to take her to Colorado, insisting on calling my home, and the caregiver trying to calm her down...
I won't call again in the evening...
Perhaps I should have argued with her on the phone: "No, you can't go back and earn a Ph.D. People who are 87 years old don't do that!"
Perhaps I shouldn't call at all when I am traveling.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mother vs. Daughter

Even when I'm 3,000 miles away from my mother, helping my daughters move into their college dorms, there are moments when both are demanding my attention.
After driving one daughter and her stored belongings from her grandmother's home on Long Island to her dorm in Hartford, Connecticut, I decided to call my mother.
Ellen was shopping for odds and ends in Target with two friends, so I thought it would be a good time to call. I stood outside the store and dialed her on my cell phone, feeling guilty for not having spoken with her for the past three days. Today, the fourth day of my absence, I called her.
She happened to be on full speed ahead mode today, talking about everything under the sun and not making much sense.
"Yes, I've decided to buy Uncle Byron's house. We can fix it up and have a fox farm there again. People always need jobs, so we can hire some men to run it," she began.
"Oh, wow, that's an interesting idea," I said. "You mean the house at Summit Lake?" This is near Mancos, Colorado, where she lived a year at age 13. I've never seen the house, sold fifty years ago.
"Yes, I'm working on my diary too. I don't know why we didn't send it off yet."
"Send it off to whom? You mean to a publisher?"
"Yes, I finished typing it a few years ago," she continued. "I don't know why I didn't send it off yet."
"You didn't finish it," I said. "There's still more of the diary to type." Typing her diary from 1936 to 1941 is an endless project that she enjoys "working" on, though she now can't find the right keys on her laptop and it ends up unreadable.
"And another thing. I've decided to go back to school and earn a Ph.D."
"Yes, there's all that history, Telluride and all. I'm going to write it up for my dissertation."
"That's an exciting idea. You are really full of energy today!" I stalled.
Should I tell her that people who are 87 years old and have LBD do not earn Ph.D.s? It's September, and she has that feeling that she should be starting back to school.
This conversation showed no signs of ending, so I decided to walk into Target and catch up with Ellen. When I found her, she wanted to consult with me on buying sheets and a decorative pillow for her dorm room.
"Get off the phone," she demanded. "I need to talk with you."
"Okay, Mom, I've got to go. I'm at Target shopping with Ellen for things for her dorm room."
"Oh, I thought you were right here."
"No, I'm in Connecticut, remember, taking Ellen back to college."
"Well, I'm going back to college too. I think I'll live at the Chapter House--"
"Mom, I can't talk any longer. I have to go." She kept right on talking, unwilling to let me go. After five more minutes, I finally said, "I'll call you again later. Goodbye"--while she was still talking.
I turned to Ellen and found that she had put regular-sized twin sheets into the shopping cart.
"But Ellen, your bed is extra long. Those sheets won't fit. We'll have to go to Bed, Bath & Beyond to get extra long."
We finished shopping, and I called my mother again later in the evening. She was still on full speed ahead, talking about going to the University of Colorado, going to live at the Chapter House in Colorado Springs...
I mostly just said "Uh-huh, yes... ummm" instead of arguing with her. I don't try to bring her to reality when I'm speaking over the phone from a long distance.